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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chp 235. My tryst with Tehelka

Some love her. Some loathe her. Some admire her guts, while others cry out for her blood because of those very same guts.

Meet Nisha Susan, reputed journalist and reporter for Tehelka - my favorite Indian magazine for the past 3-4 years that addresses social issues directly at the core with no bullshit nonsensical crap.

But Nisha is more widely known in the recent months as founder of the popular “Pink Chaddi” campaign, which resulted in both a National and International wide response - over 5000 pink panties sent to Sri Ram Sene chief Muthalik on Valentine’s Day as a mark of protest against his goons mercilessly beating up women in WWE style so as to promote “Indian culture”.

A controversial campaign no doubt, which deeply divided the netizens into three main camps – those who endorse Nisha, those who endorse the SRS, and those who endorse neither. Hence with three different ideologies, the flame wars were quite interesting albeit detestable on many occasions.

So you can say it was one of those “I will definitely blog about this” moments when Nisha Susan herself suddenly calls you up in person and says she wants to meet you!

Red Box at Turner road, Bandra. That was the destination I recommended as it wasn’t too expensive and yet seemed a little bit more professional and appropriate than a typical CCD/Barista coffee house appointment.

I reached an hour early! But then again, I’m not the type who keeps a lady waiting (*wink*) and it gave me ample time to relax and have a clear state of mind. After all, you never know what journalists are capable of throwing at you

So there I was, meeting Nisha Susan face to face for the first time.

Oh she was sweet and charming. And extremely humorous. She laughed to all my (corny) jokes and we even chatted in tamil and malayalam! (Yeah I do speak konjo konjo tam and mallu, definitely not much but enough to widen the eyes of anybody )

She got to the point immediately. She’s working on an upcoming cover story for Tehelka about the lives of North East Indians who have settled in the Metros like Mumbai, Bangalore and Delhi, and the difficulties/experiences they have faced.

I warned her that I have more or less assimilated with this so called “Indian culture” due to my upbringing and so I may not be the person she is interested in meeting, but she told me that my blog posts say otherwise.

I spoke my heart out, about everything that I wanted the rest of India to know about us North East Indians. No we are not freaking CHINESE. Yes we are Indians. No we will not bow down to forced imposition of “Indian culture” and “Hindi” on us but yes we will definitely imply with them as long as they are done warmly and friendly. I learnt tamil because of the unconditional love shown to me by my tamil brothers, but I know many people from the South and NE (people outside the cow belt) who stubbornly refuse to learn Hindi because of the way some Hindi speakers have that holier-than-thou attitude over those who don’t speak Hindi.

She was well aware of the fact that Indian school text books had NOTHING to say about North East India and my sentiments echoed the fact that we’re all nothing but some convenient BUFFER that India wanted incase China suddenly decided to invade India.

She asked me a very important question: What do I want the rest of India to know about us that they don’t, apart from the fact that we are also Indians and struggling to prove our identity and patriotism to them.

I thought for a long time.

Finally I told her a few points, mostly misconceptions that the rest of India have about us.

One. Mizoram is not some right-wing fanatical state where Christian missionaries armed with AK-47s are shooting “non-believers” in cold blood, contrary to the many false accusations about us floating around on the net. Yes, many of us have subscribed to Google alerts for “Mizoram” and we have saved all such pages and caches, and we’ll be filing an FIR soon against all those who have grossly defamed us.

Just like how many of you “seculars” are fighting the fanatics within your own society bravely, there are many of us too who will stand up against the all-powerful YMA, the bureaucrats, the politicos and even the Church if we find their actions to be detestable or against humanity. Our biggest success was when the vox populi spoke out and disbanded the SRS (err… No, not that SRS. Its “Supply and Reduction Service” here but they shared the same method & style of “wrestling” tactics just like the Sri Ram Sene). We don’t keep quiet against injustice and you will know what I’m talking about if you listen to the voice of the people at and

Two. The insurgency in Mizoram, which many experts claimed to be the biggest revolt in the Northeast, was all started because of a rat. After the bamboo trees in Mizoram flowered, millions of rats reproduced and they ate up all our food stock. Hence there was a HUGE famine in the Lushai Hills (now Mizoram) and India didn’t give a shit about our plight.

The MNFF (Mizo National Famine Front) was formed where every Mizo looked after another with NO help from the Indian Govt. Soon the MNFF became the MNF (Mizo National Front) under Pu Laldenga and the entire Mizo community rebelled against India because of the neglect and it became so intense that it was the bloodiest battle in the North East so far. But do Indians know about this story? No. Do Indians even know that Aizawl is the ONLY city in Indian history where the Indian Air Force bombed the city day in and night out? Yes, we are talking about a possible genocide here, where entire generations of Mizos were completely wiped out because of this.

But no. People are oblivious to this and we are criticized for not being Indian enough and jeered as a “Chinese” or “Nepali” wherever we go in India. Seriously, tell me, can you blame those who were fighting for autonomy back then?

Three. I have come across numerous posts where fanatics say they want to take back Mizoram from the clutches of evil Christianity. They want to revive Hinduism back there, which is really absurd because Mizos were never Hindus before the missionaries came! We were war-mongering animists fighting with each other to the death, and headhunting was an intrinsic part of our culture. Sure, if you want us to disown Christianity and go back to our roots, I really don’t mind - May I please chop off your head?

Four. Spelling mistakes!!! Aaaargh. I can understand some old timers referring to Aizawl as Aijal because that was the way non-Mizos used to pronounce it those days. But that was a loooong time ago. What really peeves me today is when I see “Aizwal” instead of Aizawl on so many official documents and diaries even today. So many times have we protested but the Indian Government just doesn’t care enough to correct this. I mean, why should they care, after all, the Election Commission of India website itself has spelled Mizoram as Misszoram, right? And yet WE are expected to learn all the names of Indian cities and states correctly, and if we make a mistake in this case, we are either punished (in school) or given that dirty “you shameless unpatriotic fellow” looks.

Five. Seven of my cousins are serving in the Indian Army and Navy. And yes, a large number of people from the Northeast are in the Armed forces protecting this great country and ready to sacrifice their lives in the line of duty. Why must we always be asked to prove our patriotism in spite of that?

Six. Yes we can make out if a person is from the North East or some South Asian country to some extent. And even you will be able to make this distinction if you spend more time with us. It is not that difficult and many of my non-Mizo friends can do this. Likewise we can’t differentiate people from the NE sometimes just like how you guys won’t be able to differentiate a tamilian from a kannadigan or a UPiite from a Bihari on many occasions. Sometimes there are prominent distinctive features and sometimes there aren’t. Simple as that. Making an “educated guess” makes no sense when you are not educated about us.

Here’s a great blog post by my friend “The Chhamanator” entitled: Frequently Asked Questions about Mizoram which I’m sure you’ll love too. Hilarious!

Q1. Do you know martial arts?
Q2. (Brings some chinese, japanese etc. writing) Can you read this?
Q3. Can you write my name in the Mizo script?
Q4. Are your politicians as bad as ours?
Q5. Are you veg or non-veg?
Q6. What is the main industry of Mizoram?
Q7. Are Mizo girls hotter than other Indian girls?
Q8. What curse words/insults do you use in the Mizo language?

Last but not the least, I have seen many people criticize people from the NE for “sticking together” and hence blame that for the reason why we feel alienated or why we are stereotyped.

Believe me, whether we mix or not, we will always be stereotyped. We Indians love to stereotype one another right from the northest North to the southest South, and it is one social evil that will never be eradicated from our system. But we can correct those at least in the media and other public platforms.

Secondly, we stick together because we are insecure and hence feel more comfortable with our own kind. Indians who migrate to UK or USA too stick together FYI, just like how Chinese emigrants make their own “China Towns” wherever they go. It’s a normal human behavior. Likewise there are many of us who have come out from our comfort zones and stereotype moulds too and yet still feel alienated on many occasions. Hence justifying the reason why we are alienated by mainstream Indians with the fact that “we stick together” is plain wrong and misconstrued.

With that, we ended the day. I know many of those sentiments that I poured out will not appear on Tehelka as I have diverted way off from the main topic. But it is always good to inform and educate reputed journalists with such information because you never know what they will write about next, or who they will tell about us in their large journalist network.

Here’s me raising a toast to those journalists who actually go all out to meet people and interact and learn, rather than sit on their fat asses copy-pasting from Google search results. Cheers y’all!


Carey Suante said...

Great job done, Kima! And kudos to Nisha Susan for reaching out!

By the way, your interview is live on my blog...head over people.. after reading this post though!

Zorami said...

It's not only the Indians and the Chinese who stick together,the Americans who come to our Univ for the Study in India Program(SIP) are no exceptions.
Brighter days are here for u, for the NE. Looking fw to ur Tehelka article.

Hriatpuia Pa said...

MMM, this taste different, isn't it? Lemme first print it out to go through... bit by bit.. b'fore writing a comment. :P

Pixie said...

Ooo! now, you are totally Page-3 too!! :P

But, seriously, brilliant post as always. Lots of insight..

It's just like how we Kannadigas stick together in a Software Industry in Bangalore!! :P

do link up your article when its out...

odzer said...

The whole national 'integration' thing sort of drives me in to a panic attack. The truth is Indians come in many shapes and sizes.Often I have witnessed my Tibetan friends being teased and tormented by the local people here. Since my significant other is an East Asian, the most strange question I was asked was from my barber and here is that gem....

He asked "Do these 'people' have pubic hair?".

I was at a loss for words....He he he he.

Congratulations on your interview, I get that magazine so I hope to read it.

Roba-to said...

nice blog... we should probably discuss this again at GOKUL ;)

m glad to know some journalists' actually writing something about it.. n that too from a reliable source...

man.. i hate those Google shit...

had 2 give a group seminar the last semester in college we had a subject called Principles of Communication Techniques.. n every1 had 2 give a seminar as a part of the syllabus... n one group was doing a piece on the North East and they turned everyone from Mizoram into into terrorists...felt like going up on stage and beating the shit out of 'em... but our teacher (who used to be an air hostess..n probalby had many friends from the NE) stopped them n told them to get their facts straight... but they insisted that they were true..n that they get it off the net.... F.U. was my response(well in my mind

oh..n if it had been the other way around..i would've had the living daylights kicked out of me for sure...

whew...some comment huh?? but had to let it out.. m hoping the article will educate the EDUCATED around here...

nohiddendepths said...

As tweeted, Oh! she's dayumm cute :)
Would love to see a sample of the pink chaddi that Nisha sent Muthalik :))

*Hugs to her* - phone no. on gtalk please :)

Conrad Barwa said...

I will disagree with you on one point slightly, Kima, and that is the 'sticking together' part of Northeasters. Personally, I have always found people from the Northeast to be very open - much more so than many of my brethren from the plains. I think this has to do with the absence of caste and the fact that people from the hills are less socially rigid in their interaction with others. Apart from that I wouldn't say that Noertheasterners stick together anymore than say Tamils or Malyalis do when they are in Northern India.

As for this whole ethnic thing, I wonder when our country will grow up and leave this ridiculousness behind. My mother's family is Bengali and there are plenty of Bengalis I have met in Kolkata who are 100% Bengalis and Hindu but who look "mongoloid" as it were. Nobody says anything about them. Same can be said for some good freinds of mine who come from Uttarkhand. We need to accept as a society that there was a lot of inter-mixing that happened in the past with migrations and invasions and that today people's identity is determined by where they are born and the country they are brouhgt in and choose to join not some absurd idea of ethnic-oneness that never existed anyway!

The only problem as I see it; is that for many people who aren't from the NE ignorance is the biggest factor that impedes understanding. Whether it is the media, literature or other forms of mass culture, they are just ill-informed about the region and its people. Which is why, I agree with Nisha that there needs to be more dissemination and also why I think this blog is so great!

Apart from you being an Arsenal fan that is :D

luliana said...

Tehelka-ah chuan engtikah nge a chhuah dawn?

Eveline said...

I'm going to have a drink for you and Nisha Susan! That was a great post Kima. It helps to get rid of the bigotry that's prevalent in our society. Well written.. i hope i do get to read the article. Tc

Banno said...

Fab post. Even if 1/2 of this gets through in Tehelka, it will be great. And I trust Nisha. She's a good journalist. Good work, guys.

reverie said...

Hey Kima, I am with you here, wholeheartedly! Great post and I follow and understand what you are saying now, like, totally. Gives me good feeling to know that folks like you are reaching out to the mainstream media (though Tehelka's refreshingly different in their take) to tell 'our version' of who we are. Way to go man!

Do give us a link to what the lady has to say on northeasterners, especially after meeting a ladykiller in you :))

Peace out!

Jerusha said...

Oh lucky lucky you! I love that woman! Can't wait to read the article..

Aduhi Chawngthu said...

Hats off to Tehelka and Nisha Susan. And to you too. It's about time somebody came forward and learned the "truth" about us and put an end (hopefully) to all these misconceptions and stereotypes. So when is the article coming out?

Mizohican said...

@ Carey: Thanx for the interview :-) I told you it’s embarrassing!

@ Zorami: Lolz. It’s not MY article on Tehelka. Its Nisha’s article and she just wanted some inputs in it, hence the meeting. :-)

@ Zaia: hehehe hotupa, still going through the printout? :-)

@ Pixie: Birds of feathers always flock together. Sometimes the feather is defined by racial similarities and sometimes it’s defined by similar interests. But bottom line, people will always flock together with people they are most comfortable with.

@ odzer: hahaha you remind me of college days. My female friends used to tell me how much they envied me because I didn’t have any hair on my body! Lolz. But of course my guy friends used to tease me because of that same reason too. I’ve been out on many dates those days (interracial ones, if you may ask) and most of the time, the girl I’m with used to have more hair on her arms than me *GRIN* But then, that doesn’t change my opinion about them or build up prejudice in any way. Everybody rocks.

Mizohican said...

@ Roba-to: Where were you yesterday? Bunking Church, that too on Easter! Shame on you my friend :-) Had good fun after Church too, and you were missing.

@ nohiddendepths: A little bird told me (or should I say a fat hairy bird from Bangalore told me) that you took part in the campaign because you had a lot of pink chaddis to spare, and they weren’t your wife’s either. lolz bradaaar, you miss your undees? :D Thanx for the link at LK by the way. And I will definitely convey your message to her.

@ luliana: Hre lo. A second session pawh nei ang a tia, a photographer nen a rawn kal a tuma, chu pawh chu appointment kan la siam leh hmanlo, Goa ah te khan ka zin leh ta daih sia.

@ Eve: If you feel like having a drink, please don’t try to wash away your guilt by using me and Nisha as an excuse. Lolz just kidding, Eve. *hugs* :-) Yup, Nisha is indeed a spectacular woman, and it is definitely worth drinking to her! Cheers.

@ Banno: Thanks a lot. I too hope some of this gets through to Tehelka. And thank you for your support as always.

Mizohican said...

@ Conrad Barwa: Yup there are quite a number of Indians who are not from the Northeast but look Mongoloid. I have met coorgies, Bengalis and many others like that. Back in college one Punju girl was nicknamed “Chinki” because she looked like somebody from the NE (translation: “her eyes are small”! How shallow can one get!). My friends told me there was nothing wrong in calling her a chinki because she’s not one so you cannot term this as racism! I am left to wonder if that girl liked to be called chinki or not in the first place. And then of course there’s that VIVA (Indian girl band) member who screamed on MTV after seeing her snaps after a photo session, “eeeks I look like a chinky!” The uncomfortable torture we have to bear…

Hopefully, Nisha’s article will reach out to a wider audience, and thank you for your support. And yes, I may be an Arsenal fan, but I like Liverpool too. Please tell me you’re not a Manure fan… :-)

@ incognito: I think Tehelka is the best medium to address our plight because people who read the magazine are more social-conscious than other people. Reaching out to them, we know that they are the type who cares, and not just any average glam mag or business related mag reader who may not give a damn about us. I’ll pass on the link about her article as soon as I get it from her :-)

@ Jerusha: Will let you know once her article is out :-) It can take some time though. I gave her a couple of contact numbers for Bangalore and Delhi too, but if she is doing Hyderabad too then you’re the first person I’d recommend to her.

@ Aduhi: Yup, with this article I think our community will achieve another milestone in clarifying some of the gross misconceptions about us. Just this morning I read about yet another Journalist writing about the “Mizo rebels” of today!!!! [Source:] I went and commented immediately. I didn’t mean to sound rude in the comment, but sometimes it just gets on one’s nerves when you see their misconceptions over and over and over again.

Hriatpuia Pa said...

Hotupa - A hmasa berah chuan Tehelka-te meuhvin an han kawm che hi a lawmawmin, ka chhuang hle mai che.
I point zawng zawng hi a tha vek a. Tha lehzual deuhte pawh a awm. No. 3 a a tawpna hi! I ti lutuk deuh em?? :-) No. 1 hian kawngro a su khawp ang ka ring. Spelling mistakes.. haha, ni chiah mai. Unintentional hi chu a la hriatthiam thei a, mahse, a rei tawh danah hian engemawzat hi chu 'intentionally' a tih a ang tawh a ni.

Engtinnge an ziah hriat a chakawm hle mai. An chhuah hunah i rawn tarlang leh ang chu tiraw??

burgerstud2005 said...

Great job...You did have a nerve to raise important issues about Mizoram and its people.The misconception should be higligted just as you did.

Anonymous said...

Illusionaire, our brave warrior!

Do you know that you are slaying the big bad dragons one at a time? your contributions to spread awareness abt the plights of NE people will go a long way. We need more people like you!

-pi blacki

Irene said...

Well done!! Great of your contribution in awareness of NE.

I am eagerly waiting of TEHELKA article in the days to come.

Do keep it up!! i am 100% supporter of you.

Cheers always!!

Lal Jo-a said...

Hieee fivee.. Bro...

Mizohican said...

@ Zaia: Hotupa, nia point no.3 khi chu kan over ve deuh hlek a nih khi, sarcasm tel vel in. hihihi. Engtin tak nge an rawn chhang an tih ka hriat chak vang mai mai in. Tunah chuan site lar ho ah heihi va post i la, engtin nge mipui ho an react a hriatchak khawp mai.

@ Burgerstud2005: It’s funny how long we must make a noise for the Govt to notice us. If they had misspelled Kolkatta or Mumbai or Hyderabad etc in any official documents, can you imagine the Hell people will be raising? We Mizos are too timid and few to make such noises unfortunately… :-(

@ Pi Blacki: Thanx Pi ber. Chuanin… natinge Twitter atang khan min follow a, min unfollow leh nghal a??? :-)

@ Hnamte: Hey you finally commented, after a really long time :-) Thanx!

@ Father Sphinx: High Five right back atcha bro.

Tharax said...

pa ropui tak chu i ni ve hrim2... mizo hnam tan thil tha i ti a ni. hope i can get a copy of tehelka here in surat when ur interview is published... chuan i work schedule tight tak kara blog na hun, thupui fun tak2 (leh fun vak lo pawh!), i nei thei hi chu i fakawm ve hrim2. thianpa han ti hram2 zel teh khai...

Anonymous said...

I haven't finished reading it... but was headhunting a very important part of our culture? Or were we just labeled as head hunters?

Ramhuai bia tih leh lu-la-hnam tih hi kan nihdan a ni chiahlo an ti deuh tlat tunlai hian.

Ka chhiar zawh hunah zahna dan ka la rawn zawt leh ang


Vikram said...

Great job Kima ! Tehelka is one of the few organizations that has real journalists in it.

Btw, did u get that Nandini Sundar paper I sent you ?

Pixie said...

That's very true... :)
but, I try not to do that and make friends with everyone.. so, invariably I end up knowing most people on my floor!!

When will your article be out?

Mizohican said...

@ Tharax: Tianglam vei tawh hi chuan, hna lamah pawh eng anga buai pawh ni mah i la, a inrawlhloh theihloh :-)

@ Makima: Yes we were really headhunters. But you'll have to know that we weren't like the headhunters in South America and some African countries, where headhunting is usually associated with cannibalism. What we did, was chop off the head of people we've killed in battles and take them home as trophies. It was a measurement of one's bravery those days.

For more info on this, read this interesting blog post by Sekibuhchhuak: Lu La Hnam Kan Ni Chiah Em ? who argued whether it was correct to call ourselves as headhunters since we weren't cannibals. Very interesting.

@ Vikram: Hi bro, no I need not get any Nandini Sundar paper from you :-( You sent it to me on my mail ?

@ Pixie: I have no idea, and its not an interview. lolz. Its just a serious (and long) discussion I had with Nisha, where I poured out everything I've always wanted to say to all these media people.

Vikram said...

Thats where I sent it.

Malsawmi Jacob said...

You are completely qualified to represent the Mizo sentiments, you've done it so very well. Kudos to you.

And it was a really good thing Nisha Susan found you - good of her to reach out, make some attempt to understand.

Earlier i used to read Tehelka regularly, but gave it up since a coupla years.Please let me know when the interview comes out. Must try to buy at least three copies.

kicking.and.screaming said...

Maybe you should have waited for her article to come out 1st...

But THATS Nisha?! Who was the one on NDTV then?!

I follow you now.

kicking.and.screaming said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Very good article!

This is what my Indian friend had to say after reading your article

" It's balanced and sober...
not a rant and yet very clear firm opinions".

I'm book marking your blog.

Ana Lutok! (I'm a Naga but have a lot of Mizo friends)

kicking.and.screaming said...

We love you, all.
At least I do.

Shahnaz Kimi said...

You are a star...

Mizohican said...

@ Vikram: Thanx a lot for that! Check your mail plz.

Shahnaz: I wish! :-)

@ Kicking: The one on NDTV must have been Sisha Susan, her evil twin sister, separated at birth and recently united again after their two halves of a medallion matched and became one. lolz. Just kidding. Dunno who the person you saw on NDTV is... it could have been some other member of the Pink Chaddi. And thanx a lot for the follow and the love and the visit. I am following you on bloglines feed now too.

@ My Naga brother: Thanx for the bookmark, and also for the comment. Wish I could say something back in Nagamese but all I know are the cuss words (I swear my Naga frens taught me only those, and I never asked them to teach me only just the cuss words).

@ Mesjay: Even I am not that regular now because there are no outlet stores on the way to my new office. I have to really go out of the way just to buy a magazine. Am thinking of subscribing, now that I have pretty much settled down at this Co.

By the way, Pi Mesjay, its not my interview :-) She just asked a few pointers about our lives here in the Metros, that I obligingly answered.

mathew said...

came here from desipundit...great post and gave me lot of insights to how life is there...

wonderboy said...

i post hi ka chhiar ziah a, ka comment ngai ta vak lo a, a chhan chu a hnawk i lo tih palh tak in tih thu hlaah, thu tak kan pai tlem ve si a... lol

Mahse hei zet chu comment lo thei ka ni lo. A tha hi ka va han ti tak em!!!! I thawhhahna i inpekna hian par mawi tak han chhuah mawlh teh se. Chuan N/A chu siampui leh mawlh teh!!!

Mizohican said...

@ Mathew: Thanx for the visit and comment Mathew. I have blogrolled you on bloglines, you have two very interesting blogs.

@ Wonderboy: Pu Wonder, nangma comment te hi chu engtik lai mah hian hnawk ka ti lovang. Tiang lam ziah chu ka tum zel ang. Thank you for your comment :-)

Nita said...

This post is stunning. I just came across it because a friend sent me the link. I have written about the north east too and I completely understand your concerns. You write well and your post is hardhitting and true and straight from the heart. What else can I say. No words can really express my feelings because I myself do not know what it is like to feel as you feel.
Also I think all communities in India have a tendency to stick together so please don't bother if someone says that about you. Tell them it's quite normal.
Also as you mentioned in the south of India and also in Maharashtra there are problems due to some people trying to force their language and culture. Forcing never works, it boomerangs in the long run, at times violently.
I can only pray that one day my fellow Indians will understand the people from the north east. I think the day will come, as more and more north east indians come to the rest of India and educate poeple. Your blog post is a great effort.

Anonymous said...

You are not right. Let's discuss it. Write to me in PM, we will communicate.

Aruna said...

Congratulations on the effort

Geneza Pharmaceuticals said...

She is a courageous woman!